Class AA state semifinals
Buford vs. Fitzgerald
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Where: Tom Riden Stadium
BUFORD — His offensive stats don’t jump off the sports page like some high school quarterbacks, but you could argue that Buford High’s Michael May is more important to the Wolves than some 3,000-yard passers are to their teams.
May’s job isn’t to beat opposing secondaries with a deep pass or to slip past oncoming linemen and break a 70-yard run, his job description is much easier than that: He must manage the offense, know the playbook and get the ball in the hands of Buford’s pair of 1,000-yard running backs.
The job doesn’t come with the glory of overwhelming numbers or jaw-dropping plays, but that’s fine for Buford’s first-year starting quarterback.
"Playing some last year I knew what my role would be," said the 6-foot, 180-pound May. "I just knew that I’d have to step up and lead and try and get the guys to follow me. I knew I’d have to run everything, and handle everything, and manage the game like it’s supposed to be."
He has certainly done that. Through his first 13 games as a starter this season, the top-ranked Wolves are a perfect 13-0 and are back in the Class AA semifinals for the second straight year. A win Friday against Fitzgerald (11-2) and May will have managed to get the Wolves back to the state title game and a chance to repeat as champions.
"Winning it last year, we knew what it takes," May said of playing for another state title. "That senior class left it to us, and our motto here is ‘leave it like you found it.’
"They won the title and we found it with the title in our hands," he added. "Now we have to go out and win it again so we can leave it."
Playing for a state championship is something that has become almost second nature for the Wolves. Since winning its first championship since 1978 in 2001, Buford has reached the quarterfinals every year and has played in four championship games, winning three. The main catalysts behind that success have been a stout defense and a solid running game. A prolific passing quarterback has never been a necessity for Buford.
"You kinda know what you get into," said Buford coach Jess Simpson of the role of the Wolves quarterback. "It’s who we are and what we do."
The son of Buford’s defensive coordinator Dicky May, the current starting quarterback of the Wolves has known from a young age that he would never be a quarterback that puts up gaudy passing numbers. And while he’s not asked to pass often (Buford is averaging less than 10 pass attempts a game), when he is called upon, May is completing passes with precision.
Through 13 games he’s completed 82 of his 123 passing attempts — a 67-percent clip — for 1,137 yards and four touchdowns. Last week in Buford’s 44-10 win over Dublin, May completed his first six attempts and joined the rushing attack with a 22-yard touchdown run in the first half.
"The most impressive thing is he made two plays Friday with his feet," Simpson said. "That’s not what he’s known for."
May finished last Friday’s game with 36 rushing yards, which is more than half of his season total of 50.
Running the ball is not his forte, nor is throwing for 300 yards a game (his season-high is 168), but making sure the Wolves offense, specifically that of running backs Cody Getz and Storm Johnson, is running smoothly is what May prides himself on the most.
"Those guys are so good, just being able to get them the ball is special," May said of his backfield playmakers. "Both of them are so talented and fun to watch."
So much fun that May doesn’t envy those quarterbacks that play in a more pass-happy offense like the spread.
"We’re still playing and some of those quarterbacks aren’t," he said. "Our main goal is to get a ring and we’re still fighting for it."
While May not be envious of other quarterbacks, Simpson knows that if he needed to, May could succeed in a pass-oriented offense.
"In a spread most of their philosophies are throw short to someone who can run far," he said. "He certainly has the abilities and the smarts to excel in that type of offense."
But that’s not his offense, and it’s not the offense that may carry the Wolves to another state title.
"If we play Buford football then we’ll be good to go," May said.